Obama's $16b fund request includes drones

An Iraqi federal police officer using a drone during an operation against ISIS militants south of Mosul last month.
An Iraqi federal police officer using a drone during an operation against ISIS militants south of Mosul last month.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON • President Barack Obama has sent a US$11.6 billion (S$16.3 billion) defence request to Congress that includes funds to buy more lethal drones for US commandos fighting ISIS and other terrorists, as well as networks to counter the pilotless aircraft those groups are now using.

The extra war-related funding requested on Thursday for the current fiscal year would provide US$5.8 billion for the Pentagon to continue operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

An equal amount for the State Department and the US Agency for International Development would support counter-terrorism efforts, refugee aid and improved embassy security, Mr Obama said in a letter to lawmakers.

While the amount requested for lethal drones is small, it provides a glimpse into a largely hidden phase of US special operations in Iraq.

The White House requested US$46.5 million to buy 535 Lethal Miniature Aerial Missile Systems and related equipment requested by the Special Operations Command Central due to "urgent operational needs".

The drone request is described as "for analytics, targeting, training, and equipment to support deployed US forces".

The drone request is described as "for analytics, targeting, training, and equipment to support deployed US forces".

The only US fighters in Iraq who are actively engaged in combat against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are in the highly classified Expeditionary Targeting Force set up a year ago to kill or capture militants.

US special operations forces also conduct raids in Afghanistan.

The Obama administration also requested, without elaboration, US$150 million to develop and field within two years a network of "counter-small unmanned aerial systems at sites" in Iraq.

The supplemental request to Congress also calls for US$814 million to help Pentagon and Afghan forces transition from Russian-built helicopters to ones made in the United States.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 12, 2016, with the headline 'Obama's $16b fund request includes drones'. Print Edition | Subscribe